The Air Force is faced with a long-standing conundrum ? not enough pilots, particularly fighter pilots. The causes of the shortage are longstanding, and have defied easy or quick solutions. The introduction of light attack aircraft (if that ever happens), offers potential to solve part of the problem by increasing the number of available cockpits. Oddly enough, the pilot shortage is exacerbated by too few so-called ?absorbable cockpits? because they can absorb new students and turn them into experienced aviators. But even increasing the supply of aircraft is not enough. The Air Force also needs a wider training pipeline to provide students in the first place, and an accessions policy that ensures it can get people who will become aviators into the service in the first place. That is proving particularly challenging using traditional methods.


Light-attack aircraft is the solution to the US Air Force?s dwindling fleet

America?s Air Force faces a serious challenge ? a mismatch between available capacity and demand. As Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson recently explained in congressional testimony: ?We are too small for what the nation is asking us to do.? Since the end of the Cold War, the service has grown radically smaller through a series of force-structure cuts. In 1990, the Air Force had 2,893 fighter aircraft. Today, it has just 1,755. Bombers fell from 661 to a mere 157 in the same period.

At the same time, the national security environment is growing increasingly complex, with Russia and China asserting themselves on the high end of the war-fighting spectrum. North Korea possesses nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and Iran is not far behind. Nonstate actors such as the Islamic State, al-Shabab, and al-Qaida continue to pose threats.


Senators Want Millions For Air Force And Marine Light Attack Planes In New Budget

U.S. Senators are looking to add hundreds of millions of dollars to the defense budget so the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps can buy fleets of light attack aircraft. This comes amid reports that the former service could finally award a contract to buy these types of planes by the Spring of 2019.

On May 24, 2018, the Senate Armed Services Committee, or SASC, approved the latest, amended draft iteration of their version of the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2019 fiscal year, the formal title for the annual defense budget. In the process of the so-called ?markup,? the legislators proposed authorizing $350 million to support the Air Force?s light attack effort, as well as another $100 million for a Marine Corps program. In June 2017, the Committee had added $1.2 billion for ?a fleet of Light Attack/Observation aircraft? in the fiscal year 2018 draft budget without specifying any particular service, a figure that lawmakers subsequently reduced substantially.

The OA-X experiment: is there a future for light attack aircraft?

Do light attack aircraft have a fighting chance of mass mobilisation in the US Air Force (USAF)?

The debate over the benefits of using quicker, cheaper aircraft against low-priority targets versus the risk of sending pilots into permissive airspace in lightly armoured, propeller-driven planes has been raging since the Vietnam War ? yet military aviation experts are no closer to reaching a consensus.

The arguments for a fleet of light attack aircraft centre on cost and practicality. The air force regularly sends state-of-the-art jets such as the F-15, F-16 and F-22 on missions against the Taliban, Islamic State and other insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, none of which pose a serious aerial threat.